what is a canvas print

What is a canvas print?

In short

A canvas print is a piece of printed canvas. Canvas is a printing media, an alternative to fine art paper or other media. A canvas print is always mounted on a wooden frame. Staples are used to secure the canvas. The staples are mostly placed on the back of the frame. Please note, a canvas print is not the same as a canvas painting. Canvas prints have a lot of similarities with canvas paintings. Both are made from the same materials, except that painters use paint for their artworks and printers use inks.

What is a canvas print?

Technically speaking, a canvas print is a piece of canvas with an image printed on it. Canvas is a type of medium used by the printing industry, just as paper is a type of medium. When we talk about canvas prints, we refer most of the time to a gallery-wrapped canvas print. Gallery wrapping is a technique where you wrap and stretch the printed media and secure it on the back of a wooden frame. The frames are mostly made out of pinewood and are the same frames painters use for their paintings. The wood used to construct these frames are called stretcher bars.

Stacked canvas frames.

There is an image printed on each canvas. The printing is done by large format printers. Once we have the canvas print and the frame, it’s time for the assembly. The canvas is stretched around the wooden frame. Stretching requires a special tool called a stretcher tool. Once it’s stretched, the canvas will be secured with staples. Stapling is always done on the back of the frame.

Image: back of frame

Now that the stretching is done, it’s time to fold the corners of the canvas. The folding can be done in multiple ways. It requires some practice. Once the folding is done, the canvas print is gallery-wrapped. Sometimes a hanger is placed on the back of the product. However, this isn’t necessary for hanging. It hangs fine on the frame itself.
Unique features of canvas prints:
- The image is permanent.
- The print is mounted on a wooden frame.
- It has a unique canvas texture.

Image: canvas print
The quality of the print is determined by a few factors, these are: media profile, image resolution, inks, dpi (dots per inch) and printing resolution.

Canvas prints vs. other prints

What is it that makes a canvas print unique? A canvas print has a characteristic that makes it a one-of-a-kind product. To start, it’s wrapped and stretched on a wooden frame, just like a painting. This gives it an interesting and unique 3D effect. The downside is, it’s permanent. Other than a photo frame, you can’t swap the image of a canvas. Also, the media used. Photo paper is equally smooth. Canvas is textured. This gives the canvas print the appearance of a painting. Another advantage is the weight. Canvas prints tend to weigh less than photo frames. This makes hanging easier.

Gallery wrap

Gallery wrapping is a very commonly-used technique in the canvas industry. It’s a method used to stretch and wrap the canvas around the sides of a wooden frame. The canvas is secured with staples or stacks on the back of the wooden frame.

In some cases, the print on the canvas continues on the side of the frame. It’s also possible the sides are in a solid color. Another popularly-used method is using reflect.

Gallery wrapping can be done either by human, or by machine. When done by human, it requires craftmanship. A quality gallery wrap has a number of properties. These are:

• The canvas must be super taut, no wrinkles or unevenness.
• No cracking in the corners. Some cheaper canvasses tend to crack when stretched.
• Folding must be tight and tense.
• High quality frame. Should be made of finger-jointed and knot-free laminated wood. This is the ultimate protection against warping.
• Made by hand. No machine can stretch as tight as an experienced craftsman can.

Gallery Wrap


A canvas print can exist out of a single panel or numerous panels. The most commonly seen is the single panel print. When a canvas print has 2 panels, it’s known as a diptych. If a canvas has 3 panels, it’s called a triptych. When one image is printed on multiple panels it’s referred to as multi-panel wall art or split art.

How many panels are used is up to the client. There are no specific rules on how many panels should be used. When using multiple panels, certain shapes can be created. The most commonly-seen are the diamond and wave shape.

Sizes and shapes

Basically, canvas can be produced in any size and in most shapes. Typical shapes are rectangle and square, but even a hexagon is possible. At CanvasConquest we produce rectangles and squares only. The size of a small canvas print is about 16” x 12” (41cm x 30cm), while a large canvas print can go up to 60” x 40” (152cm x 102cm). Canvas prints can be found in almost any size. It’s the nature of the product. The size is easy adjustable because of the flexible materials. Canvas can easily be cut to size, the same as the stretcher bars.

What is canvas (canvas printing medium)?

Canvas is a fabric. It’s strong and textured. The exact type of material may vary. This could be cotton, but polyester or a blend as well. There are a few differences between polyester and cotton. To start, polyester is a synthetic material, and cotton is natural. Polyester is the cheaper material. The texture of polyester is smooth, while the surface of cotton contains fibers and looks like a blank canvas painting, heavily textured. Polycotton combines the cheaper price of polyester with the texture from cotton, the best of both worlds. Lastly, the type of weave used impacts how the canvas looks. The most commonly used is Oxford 2/1 weave.

If you wonder if you can get yourself a piece of cotton fabric and run it through your printer and get some decent results, no you can’t! Canvas needs coating before it is printable. What coating it needs depends on what type of printer is going to be used with the canvas. For that reason, inkjet canvas doesn’t work with solvent canvas, and the other way around. Please note, you do not have to coat the canvas yourself. If you buy canvas as a media, check the label if it is suitable for inkjet/latex/solvent. Canvas always comes pre-coated.